Photography MA

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Course starts: 12 October 2020Apply now

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Join a vibrant community of creative practitioners and researchers committed to exploring photography’s expanded field. Advance your individual approach to image-making. Underpin your practice in contemporary art and visual culture debates. Develop your professional and peer networks. Create an impressive portfolio and exhibit your work in physical and online gallery spaces.

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Become part of the Northern Centre of Photography, a lively space for critical debate, research and creative production for contemporary photographic theory and practice. Work alongside a diverse range of established artists, theorists, writers, curators and specialist technicians to develop your practice and professional career.

Enjoy the creative freedom of exploring a range of analogue and digital photographic media, new technologies and platforms. Meet and collaborate with staff and peers across the different disciplines of the School of Art and Design. Join NEPN and explore opportunities for professional development and work experience.

Explore MA Photography student work on the Photo Salon website. Photo Salon is a curated digital space featuring a diverse range of imagery, ideas and works created by MA Photography students and graduates of the Northern Centre of Photography at the University of Sunderland.

Why us?

  • The Northern Centre of Photography is an international research hub for photographic theory, practice and curation: our tutors are research-active artists, curators and writers

  • International perspectives and professional opportunities are offered through the affiliate organisation NEPN

  • We welcome students from different disciplines and backgrounds with a bespoke syllabus and specialist workshops that map onto your interests and professional aspirations

  • 95.3% of our graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduating, according to DLHE 2016/17 (based on UK postgraduate students)
  • You can work with still and moving image in chemical and digital photography facilities and benefit from access to facilities in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries, including the Fab Lab, the Media Centre and the National Glass Centre

  • Our taught sessions allow you to balance work-life with studies as you can choose to commit one (PT mode) or two (FT mode) days a week during term time

  • Our MA Photography shows receive excellent reviews by specialist publications such as Photomonitor
  • Our Creative Arts and Design courses, which include MA Photography, were ranked 5th for Engagement and 7th for Overall Satisfaction out of 39 institutions in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2019 (PTES)

New Sunderland Culture logo

A city brimming with creative potential

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme. Learn more about Sunderland Culture.


Course structure

The MA Photography programme enables you to examine the production, interpretation and distribution of the still and moving image, across the spectrum of photographic practices and against wider contexts of art, new media and digital technologies. You will look closely at contemporary photographic practice via guest artist presentations and visits to galleries and museums.

The contextual studies modules offer you advanced knowledge and understanding of contemporary critical debates, photographic practices and professional contexts that inform the presentation of your own practice. These modules use written assessment (essays, exhibition reviews and reflective accounts of own practice) to help you articulate your ideas and use research to inform your creative and professional practice.

We use a wide variety of teaching and learning methods ranging from professional and academic skills workshops, research seminars, theory lectures, practical demonstrations, peer critiques, and group discussions. You will have high levels of contact with tutors who give regular feedback and support and receive formative feedback throughout the development of each self-initiated piece of work.

You will also have the opportunity to meet established practitioners from diverse creative and industry backgrounds and hear about their work and careers.

Part-time students will study during daytime alongside full-time students. 

Photography 1 - Certificate (60 credits)

  • Practice-led Exploration (30 credits) - the focus is on developing your critical and analytical approach to photographic practice
  • Contextual Studies: Critical and Professional Contexts in Contemporary Art and Design (30 credits) - the focus is on critical theory and professional practice


Photography 2 – Postgraduate Diploma (60 credits)

  • Publication (30 credits) - this module builds on knowledge gained at stage 1 and allows you to develop your portfolio of work exploring different formats of publication
  • Issues in Contemporary Photographic Practice (30 credits) - this module extends your theory knowledge and critical skills by exploring contemporary issues within photography


Photography 3 – Masters Degree (60 credits)

  • Exhibition (30 credits) - the practical work you have developed throughout the course will be showcased at a public exhibition
  • Research Project (30 credits) - this is a self-directed research project that may take the form of a written essay/report or a visual essay


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

More about MA Photography at Sunderland

Discover more articles
  • The University Library has an exceptional collection of photography books and monographs and subscribes to a comprehensive range of academic journals and databases so you can access reliable and up-to-date information.

    A dedicated Academic Liaison Librarian supports students and staff in the arts, design and performing arts disciplines.

    The key resources for your course include:

    Discover: The Library’s multi-disciplinary search tool

    Art Full Text: A major resource for media and arts information

    JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’): Giving access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

    Lexis: A major resource on full-text newspaper articles and legal information

    Library Services - arts and design
  • The University has invested in modern facilities in the recently refurbished Northern Centre of Photography that include:

    • Chemical darkrooms for colour and black and white printing. You can print from 35mm to 5x4 with a large horizontal enlarger to create extra large prints
    • Separate chemical darkroom for alternative printing methods
    • Digital darkrooms with state-of-the-art scanners and digital production and printing
    • Photography studios equipped with tungsten and flash lighting equipment
    • Cameras ranging from 35mm to 5x4 Pentax, Nikon, Mamiya, Hasselblad, Fuji 6x7, Toyo, Sinar and Linhof. We provide Digital Nikons and Leaf backs for high-end digital studio work as well as HD video cameras
    • Digital suites with open-access Apple Macs for editing video and digital images
    • Digital studio with video, sound editing and screening facilities
    • Project spaces
    • Large wall screen with HD projection for film and video screenings
    • Art gallery
    Northern Centre of Photography
  • Map and directions


The University provides excellent facilities and support so it's easy to make a seamless transition from your studies to the workplace.

Entry requirements

Our typical offer is

  • 2:1 classification or equivalent from a Canadian bachelor's degree
  • 2:1 classification or equivalent from a USA bachelor's degree

in a subject related area. We will consider applicants with professional and vocational experience.

We also require three passes at GCSE grade C or above, which must include Mathematics and English Language, or an equivalent qualification, for example; a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If you have studied for a new GCSE for which you will be awarded a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above.

If English is not your first language we will require an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with an overall score of 6.0 and at least 5.5 or higher in each component: reading, writing, listening and speaking. An alternative approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) can also be considered if the applicant's element scores are equivalent to those required for IELTS.

Fees and finance

The annual fee for this course is:

  • £6,500 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £13,500 if you are an international student

The part-time fee is £375 per 10 credits.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

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This information was correct at the time of publication.

A Photography student in the studio


Postgraduates are highly employable and, on average, earn more than individuals whose highest qualification is an undergraduate degree. On completing this course, you will be equipped for a range of positions within the creative sector which include professional photography and arts practice, curatorial, editorial and design work as well as education.

Career opportunities

Recent Sunderland graduates are now working in art institutions, museums, community arts organisations, Further Education Colleges and the wider media industry. A Masters degree will also enhance career opportunities within Higher Education and prepare you for undertaking a PhD.

Guest speakers

You will have a range of opportunities to meet different practitioners working across the photographic sector. NEPN provides a programme of speakers and events that question and engage with photographic debates.

Previous speakers have included: Simon Norfolk, Helen Sear, Rosy Martin, John Davies, Peter Fryer, Paul Seawright, Liz Wells, Jem Southam, Tomoko Yoneda, Melanie Friend, Julian Germain, Paul Wombell, Dinu Li, Paul Hermann, Nicola Dove and Julian Stallabrass.


Meet the students

  • I could not have got this far without the support and belief of the amazing staff at the University.
    Juliet Chenery-Robson, MA Photography graduate

    Juliet Chenery-Robson

  • Take full advantage of easy access to fantastic facilities.
    Yvonne Davies, MA Photography graduate

    Yvonne Davies

Meet the team

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